Ontario introduces new workforce law

Industrial workers standing in a row

New act to enhance skilled trades, protect frontline workers, and support women in the workforce

In May, the Ontario government introduced the Working for Workers Five Act, 2024. If passed, this new law aims to make it easier for people to get jobs in skilled trades, remove employment barriers, protect frontline workers, and support women at work. Certain regulations, as noted below, come into effect this year. Key provisions include apprenticeship expansion, simplified foreign credential recognition, enhanced workplace safety measures, and increased fairness for jobseekers.

Helping people get into skilled trades

The act will expand the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) by creating the Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training (FAST) program. This lets high school students in Grades 11 and 12 get apprenticeship experience through extra co-op education credits. The FAST program within OYAP, will be implemented in the fall semester of this year.

An online job-matching website will start to help apprentices, journeypersons, and employers connect and share job opportunities. The act will also offer different ways for people who want a second career in skilled trades to get in, even if they don’t meet all the academic requirements.

Removing employment barriers

The act proposes changes to help people who trained in other countries get jobs. It requires regulated professions to streamline their registration processes, allowing multiple steps to be completed at the same time. It also aims to make the foreign credential system more flexible by accepting alternative documents for times like when there’s a war or natural disaster. 

Protecting frontline workers

The act proposes reducing the work time needed for presumptive coverage of primary-site skin cancer from 15 years to 10 years. This coverage will be expanded to include wildland firefighters and fire investigators for occupational cancers, heart injuries, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Certain regulations (such as including wildland firefighters under the same presumptive coverages for occupational cancers, PTSD, and heart diseases) came into effect on May 1, 2024.

The legislation will allow electronic and online copies of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to meet posting requirements and enable virtual meetings for joint health and safety committees. A consultation will consider expanding PTSD benefits to more workers. 

Efforts to prevent asbestos-related illnesses will be strengthened by adding data into a new occupational exposure registry. Employers will be banned from requiring sick notes for job-protected sick leave under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), but they can ask for other proof.

Supporting women at work

The act requires the provision of menstrual products like pads or tampons on construction sites with 20 or more workers. Sites must have clean and sanitary washroom facilities, with cleaning records to ensure accountability. The legislation also updates the definition of harassment to include virtual or online harassment. A consultation will explore further changes to ensure employers act on identified workplace harassment.

Being fair to people looking for jobs

Employers are required to communicate when they’re hiring and must tell applicants if they got the job or not after an interview. The law doubles the maximum fine for people who don’t follow the ESA from $50,000 to $100,000. For repeat offenders, the penalty will increase from $1,000 to $5,000. From October 1, 2024, the minimum wage in Ontario will increase from $16.55 to $17.20 per hour, to reflect a 3.9 per cent increase based on the Ontario Consumer Price Index.

The Working for Workers Five Act, 2024, is meant to improve the workforce environment in Ontario by making it easier to find work, removing barriers to employment, keeping people safe, and helping women in the workplace. WSN will continue to monitor the progress of Bill 190 and report on any developments.


Backgrounder: Working for Workers Five Act, 2024 – Ontario

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